By Chris Heagney
COVID-19 has changed the way the beverage industry interacts with its customers this spring, and has likely altered that relationship in some permanent way. Many of us have transitioned from pints at the bar to growlers, crowlers and cans enjoyed at home. While most of the beers and ciders that we all love are still available, we have quickly realized that the craft beverage industry is much more than just the craft drink itself. It’s the community that comes from release parties and facility tours, bellying up to your favorite bar or joining a crowd on your favorite patio. Countless breweries have slogans and company values aimed at bringing people together over a glass of beer, and for weeks and weeks that has been discouraged. And although it was a no-brainer from a public health perspective, the cancellation of the world’s largest beer festival, Munich’s Oktoberfest, felt symbolic to beer drinkers everywhere.
But craft producers are finding new ways to assuage this loss. From bottle-club memberships to virtual brewery or cidery tours, the craft community has demonstrated its adaptability during this strange time. The Craft Brewers Conference, another huge event for the industry, was forced to cancel its descent on San Antonio. The annual gathering, taking place over a long weekend in the spring, normally has more than 13,000 attendees, nearly 100 seminars and 850 industry professionals exhibiting equipment, apparel and ingredients on the trade floor. In place of the in-person conference, the Craft Brewers Association hosted webinars online, which were free over a five-week period.
Just as businesses all over the world have pivoted their operations to meet what the pandemic has thrown at them, beer and cider producers have done the same. These hard times would be even more difficult without the supportive (and thirsty!) community that surrounds our local businesses. Little by little, the festive culture we once knew will return, but while we wait, we can still enjoy our favorites from a safe distance.
Christopher Heagney is the owner of Daidala Ciders, located in Asheville at the Cotton Mill Studios at 122 Riverside Drive.